This week I was watching racing from a track which will remain nameless and just as I tuned in, the track handicapper for the simulcast show was giving his picks for the upcoming race. If the way he was dressed was an indication of his success as a handicapper, I know what I would do with his selections; ignore them.
Now, I realize people have become less formal when going to the theatre or out for dinner, but while customers may have dressed down, the staff still plays the part, dressing formally. Why do racetrack operators accept their employees dressing the same way customers dress?
As hard as it is to get new people to show up at the track, it certainly doesn't help when employees dress like they just walked in off the street. While gambling is a big part of going to the racetrack, tracks need to make attending the races an event. That means employees dressed in uniforms from the mutual clerk as well as the track handicapper wearing a suit or a sports jacket when on the air (Rest assured on the racino side they are dressed uniformly). Horsemen and owners have to do their part as well. Trainers should be dressed casually (a shirt and pants), but neat, grooms should be dressed better as well, no shorts or tee shirts talking about my mother. Owners should be dressed like they can own race horses so when they get to the winners circle they don't make people scratch heads wondering how someone like that could own a horse.
When you are racing to a mostly empty grandstand, it is easy to let things go but if you are looking to reverse the trend of losing customers, you need to give horse players a reason to come on out. Rest assured, dump chic is not the way to go. For fans of trottingbreds, primarily a mid-western sport as well as in Bermuda, Nappanee Raceway opens on May 22, just eight days away. Their season runs from May 22 through mid-September. Here is a video of a race contested there.
The amazing thing is fans over the age of 13 pay $4 to get through the gate; this without wagering. Could you imagine a harness track charging admission? If you could make harness racing an event, you could but when you race as much as we do at most tracks, what makes a night at the races special?
Meanwhile in Mississippi, where unsanctioned races have been conducted, the MS Horse Park has opened a new harness track. Right now, the track is to be open for training but there is hope to introduce racing over the 5/8 mile oval. While parimutuel wagering is not legal in the state, hopefully this track will conduct sanctioned racing. No, there is no wagering in MS, but anything which introduces new people to harness racing is a good thing.